Henry IV, Part I "Show It A Fair Pair Of Heels"

William Shakespeare

"Show It A Fair Pair Of Heels"

Context: Prince Hal and Poins, having conceived an elaborate scheme for exposing Falstaff's true colors as a braggadocio, await his return at the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap. They have foiled his plan to rob the king's retainers at Gads Hill by counter-robbing the four in his party. Now, convinced that "the huge bombard of sack," Falstaff, will manufacture some excuse that will be worth a "month's laughter," they bide their time in comic badinage with Francis, a drawer at the tavern. In effect, Shakespeare is providing yet another glimpse of Hal's good-natured wit which is to serve him so well later as "the mirror of Christian kings." Also, of course, the action provides a credible delay for Falstaff and his cronies to hack their swords and tickle their noses with spear-grass so that, bloody and beaten, they will give the appearance of having engaged in a furious battle. In the fun at Francis' expense, Poins and Hal place themselves at opposite ends of the tavern and, by alternately calling for the drawer's attention, succeed in utterly confusing and frustrating him. At one point Hal comically tests Francis' fidelity as an apprentice to his master:


PRINCE HENRY
Come hither Francis.
FRANCIS
My lord?
PRINCE HENRY
How long hast thou to serve, Francis?
FRANCIS
Forsooth, five years, and as much as to–
POINS [within.]
Francis!
FRANCIS
Anon, anon, sir.
PRINCE HENRY
Five year, by'r lady a long lease for the clinking of pewter. But Francis, darest thou be so valiant as to play the coward with thy indenture, and show it a fair pair of heels, and run from it?
FRANCIS
O lord sir, I'll be sworn upon all the books in England, I could find it in my heart–